Monday, August 17, 2015

Learning about the Night Sky and Chocolate Night bark

This last year, I've been doing Motherhood On A Dime's God's Little Explorers preschooler program with my four year old. We've really enjoyed it. It's flexible and easy to add or change if need be. Big Blue Eyes loves that we read a story from the bible each week (the weekly plan centers around that as well) and she particularly enjoys the songs. I love the addition of chore ideas (learning to fold laundry, sweep the floor, etc.).

This idea stems from U is for Up in the Sky. It's week 27 in the God's Little Explorers program.

Big Blue Eyes really enjoyed the pinpricking constellation idea and then drew with a white crayon to connect her constellations (picture below). We also checked out Fancy Nancy: Stellar Stargazer! from the library and did some nighttime sight-seeing.
We used to have a preschool/kitchen book but I was not pleased with the ingredients in most of the recipes so I was trying to come up healthy alternatives or just starting from scratch. When I was trying to think of a "whole food" alternative to making constellations or an edible night sky, I received Sarah Britton's cookbook My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season in the mail. I was flipping through it and I found a recipe for what she deems "Night Sky." I was sold!

Her recipe is a wonderful totally-from-scratch chocolate bar recipe so please buy the book so you can try it her way (plus you'll get to enjoy all her other amazing recipes). Here, I've substituted chocolate chips for an easier alternative for Moms and children. Then I laid out the "Star and Moons" toppings in little glass bowls for Big Blue Eyes to decorate the bark with. She had lots of fun and was excited to enjoy her Night Sky treat! This would also be a great gift idea for children to help make.

I know I mention "healthy alternatives" and here I am showing you how to make chocolate bark. Shame on me! This is, of course, a treat. But a fun one!


Night Sky Chocolate Bark
3 cups chocolate chips (Enjoy Life semi-sweet and Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate are both dairy-free)
Large tablespoon coconut oil
Star and Moon toppings:
Bee Pollen
Rose hips (dried)
Coconut flakes
Pink sea salt
Goji Berries
Chopped Nuts and Seeds
Dried Blueberries
Freeze-dried raspberries or strawberries

1. In a double bowler, melt chocolate chips and large tablespoon coconut oil.
2. Once melted, spread chocolate on a parchment paper-lined tray.
3. Sprinkle with star and moon toppings.
4. Let cool in refridgerator then cut and enjoy.

All the toppings can be found at your local natural grocery store, amazon, and Mountain Rose Herbs, my favorite place.

I'd really encourage you to buy her Sarah Britton's cookbook. I usually steal borrow my mom's cookbooks but this one I knew I needed my own copy.

And if you are looking for a homeschool program, make sure to check out Motherhood On A Dime's God's Little Explorers preschooler program. I plan to do that program with my next child when he is old enough. For now, I am planning Big Blue Eyes' kindergarten year. Excited and pumped for a new year of homeschooling!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Just Peachy Lemon Balm Smoothie

To be peachy or not to be peachy... that is the question.
Well, if you are trying to be peachy and not succeeding, you probably need a little more lemon balm in your life.
Just saying.

Lemon balm is a natural nerve tonic. It calms and soothes anything from frazzled feelings to sleepless nights to baby's toothaches. There is a reason Lemon Balm has "balm" attached to its name. How very astute of us to notice!
With its lemony flavor and bright taste, this herb will liven up any smoothie. We added additional greens for a chlorophyll - rich smoothie and chia seeds for extra nutrients and a little omegas. I love adding chia seeds; they make for a fluffier smoothie without additional ice.
So if you know you're going to have a particularly difficult day (or enduring it as we speak), nourish your soul and body with a little lemon balm and a good book ( I recommend Queen by R.J. Larson or any of her wonderful series).

Just Peachy Lemon Balm Smoothie
1 cup coconut water (or nondairy milk)
3-4 peaches, depending on size
2 leafs of kale
Handful of Lemon Balm
Handful of ice
2 TB chia seeds
Blend and enjoy! And I hope the rest of your summer is just peachy!
We've been enjoying lots of peaches thanks to a wonderful peach-picking day with grandparents and great grandparents.

"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”
Psalm 62:1-2

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Learning to Braid using Pipe Cleaners

Need something for your preschooler to do:
Bright? Colorful? Inside activity? Practice motor skills?
Check all of the above! And there is a wearable finished product!
Sounds good.
All you need are pipe cleaners, tape and a surface that is tape-able (that's a word, right?). Because mothers of preschoolers know that not all surfaces are "tape-able".
Twist the ends of three pipe cleaners (using different colors is helpful).
Tape it the table.
Now show how to pull apart three strands and starting with one side layer over the middle so it's now in the middle.
Then repeat with opposite side (great opportunity to talk about opposites).
Repeat and repeat until done.
When finished, twist ends and twist together to form bracelet if you choose.
Our lovely pipe cleaner braid bracelets...

Again, a lot easier to show then instruct.
And if you need a load of pipe cleaners, don't forget to check amazon!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Breaded Zucchini Steak Fries

Our garden has all but taken off... but only in the zucchini section. I think we've eaten our family's weight in zucchini. Who else has been enjoying their zucchinis?
So far we've had zucchini eggs, zucchini gazpacho, zucchini scones, zucchini muffins, roasted lemony herb zucchini, zucchini noodles, chocolate zucchini donuts and I'm dying to make this Zucchini Firecracker Cornbread out of this cookbook My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season.
And we're trying zucchini pickles - naturally fermented. Let's see how that goes.
So it begs the question... what can't you make with zucchinis?
Here is the first zucchini from my garden. Yum! It was played with before we ate it. Our baby tried to nurse it, however that proved a rough error for him.

I've seen zucchini fries but they were always loaded with cheese. Why not a better version and why not something everyone can enjoy - vegan, gluten free, egg free, dairy free, nut free. Let's just cover all the bases.
A great plant-based snack or side dish (we ate them as the main entree at lunch because who wouldn't want fries for their entire meal?). The flaxseeds, sesame seeds and buckwheat make for a healthy "breading". Sesame is a great source of calcium, iron and magnesium. Flaxseeds are a great source of omegas and fiber.

Serve with homemade ketchup or hibiscus ketchup.

Breaded Zucchini Steak Fries
1 medium - large zucchini
A little oil to dip zucchini in
1/4 cup Sesame seeds
5 TB Buckwheat groats
1/4 cup flaxseeds
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Pinch of lemony thyme, optional

1. Preheat oven to 425. Layer baking sheet with parchment paper.
1. In a coffee grinder, grind buckwheat and flaxseeds until a flour forms. In a large shallow bowl or plate, mix seeds, flour mixture, salt, garlic and herbs. Set aside.
2.  Pour oil onto another large shallow bowl or plate.
3. Slice zucchini in 3-4" long rounds (1 zucchini only takes 2-3 cuts to do this) then slice those in half lengthwise. Now make 1/2"-3/4" inch cuts lengthwise for large steak fries.
4. Dip fries first in oil then coat in flour mixture. Place on parchment-covered tray. Bake 15 minutes then turn and bake another 10-15 minutes.

What garden produce are you enjoying? And have you had to find new uses for vegetables? Please share!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Raw 5-Minute Strawberry Chia Jam

One Friday morning, a dear friend and her kids invited us to go strawberry picking.

As we were picking - the royal "we" since the girls mostly frolicked through the strawberry patch - I thought of my Granny. She had passed away several years prior - old and wisened. A lot of life had passed by those wide blue eyes - that's where I get mine. But she always had a smile, the charm never deterred by life's wrinkles.

We would visit her at least once every summer. My Dad would always say "I don't think she's going to be here next year. This is her last year. We need to go visit her."

And so we would go... inevitably, she would always hold on another year. And my Dad would reiterate the previous statement. We can look at it as a cycle or life pattern but I like to think of it as a tradition. Being a non-traditional family, we were more flexible and our traditions far between.

But one summer, I remember Granny sitting in at her table - the same spot she sat in for the last 10 or 20 years. Back to the kitchen wall, facing the TV. She held her cup of coffee in her hand and she'd smile at me. I warmed to her a little more with each smile. She pushed a bowl of strawberries my way.

Of course, I ate all of them... she knew I would since she already deemed me Strawberry Mary.


And so as we picked the strawberries this last Friday and I watched my baby boy squish a strawberry all over his face and my 4 year old frolicking with her friend, holding their dolls, I wondered what "traditions" my children will remember. Will it be that we were always busy or that we took time to revel in each other's company?

Lately, we've been on the busy bus. Not something I particularly enjoy. I don't like to equate the word "busy" with my sense of self. So I'm using this as a reminder to myself to "not schedule " but to enjoy my day, particularly the time with my husband and children.

And here's something quick and easy to make and enjoy later (or now).
Raw 5 Minutes or Less Strawberry Chia Jam
4 cups strawberries
2 spoonfuls of honey (to taste, optional)
1/4 cup chia seeds
1. Blend in blender or with immersion blender.
2. Let sit to thicken.
3. Refrigerate and enjoy within one week (this does freeze well).

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Coconut Cream Soda (vegan, refined sugar-free)

This harkens back to my summers when I was a kid with scratched up knees and had a permanent shorts and tank top tan. I remember every summer we'd go visit my grandparents in Montana. That's when I first discovered road-watching. There's people-watching and then there is road-watching. Where will the road take us? I loved watching the mountains and forests of North Idaho morph into the plains and hills of Montana. The towering trees into seas of grass. A scape of dark green and sapphire mountain blue into the color scheme I see as Montana - new growth green, cattle ranch brown and gold - not shiny hard-metal gold but living gold. The gold of mature grass alive in your hands. The gold as the late summer sun glints off the cowboy's truck. The gold of sun-dried antlers decorating the fields.
There is one particular memory I have of going to visit a cousin's cattle ranch. My grandparents lived in town so the drive was not short or smooth. We made it in the afternoon and dark clouds poured in from the West. We piled out of the truck, our clothes clinging to our bodies from the long ride and our stomachs feeling a little churned. Loud shouts of thunder clapped at our arrival. The air was warm but a breeze teased at our clothes and hair.

And then the rain started..

Summer thunderstorms are the best. The warmth of the sun combined with the cool rain.
...Also, puddle jumping doesn't turn into pneumonia. 
Those visits to the ranch were the highlights of the trip. I loved playing in our cousin Annie's pool and watching movies while sipping tall glasses of fruit soda poured over vanilla ice cream.
This recipe was somewhat inspired by those memories. In an effort to make a dairy-free cream soda, I ended up with somewhat of a delicious float. A wonderful thing happens when coconut cream is mixed with sparkling water. It gets all light and fluffy like summer clouds.

Coconut Cream Soda
Coconut Cream
Sparkling Water
Vanilla Stevia (make your own with this recipe or I use NuNaturals Nustevia )
1. Scoop a heaping spoonful of coconut cream into your glass
2. Cover with a little sparkling water. Whisk quickly with fork to break up lumps. Use 2-4 drops vanilla stevia.
3. Top with sparkling water. Stir once more. Enjoy!
*Another option is to use agave or maple syrup for sweetener. This will impart their flavors on to the drink. Adding vanilla extract will give it more of a vanilla cream flavor.

So sweet readers, are you road-tripping this summer? Where are you going?
I'm just itching to go back to Montana. If I didn't love Idaho so much, I'd live in Montana.
On a side note, I enjoyed this on my birthday instead of cake. And I was so blessed to receive a batch of these amazing chocolate cookies from my neighbor. It really was a blessing because some of my plans fell through and it was a rough night with the kiddos and I had a sour attitude about it, particularly because it was my birthday. I sat on the rocking chair holding my fussy baby, praying that Jesus would help me have a better attitude because I knew I was being selfish. And literally not ten minutes later, this wonderful neighbor showed up with these warm chocolate cookies. God is so good! 

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